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Children's portraits create a lasting impression

When the school photographer visits Grangetown County Infants School in Cardiff, he'll have problems palming pupils off with postcard-size prints. These children like their enlargements to be big, really big - in fact, nothing less than 3.5 by 2.5 metres.

The four massive portraits that beam down from the playground wall were created by community artists Louise Shenstone and Adrian Butler with a combination of an ancient craft and new technology.

The pictures are mosaics - intricate patterns of coloured tiles which faithfully reproduce photographs of seven-year-old Aimee Steele and her chums.

The images were captured during a snap-shooting session in the playground by an Apple QuickTake digital camera. Using Adobe's Photoshop, the pictures were viewed in pixelated form - that is, as a welter of coloured dots, rather like an impressionistic painting. Then each pixel was matched with a tile of the corresponding colour. The final effect is stunning. When you're close to the wall, all you see is an abstract pattern, but as you step back, the images become clear.

From three metres or so, it's impossible to believe that they are no more than an arrangement of 6,000 tiles.

Headmistress Mrs Rosemary Palmer, who commissioned the artists as part of a Pounds 30,000 scheme to transform the school in this down-at-heel corner of town, says: "It has transformed what was a very drab playground. And, unlike a mural, it will never fade. The children are becoming dab hands at mosaic. The wasps and dragonflies that also adorn the wall are all their own work, and notice boards in the classrooms are festooned with their crayoned blueprints of what they want to do next."

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